Reinvent Albany supports City Council’s Ranked Choice Voting education bill



Int. No. 1994 of 2020 (Ampry-Samuel)

December 4, 2020

A Local Law in relation to a voter education campaign regarding ranked choice voting.

Section 1 states that by November 15, 2020, the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) must launch and maintain an educational website on Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in designated citywide languages including a video explainer, a fact sheet, and an example of a ranked choice voting ballot. RCV information must also be included on print and digital educational materials prepared by the CFB and voter assistance advisory committee. In 2021 and 2023, the CFB’s voter guide must include two pages explaining particular elements of RCV, with at least one page included in voter guides following 2023.

By November 15, 2020, the CFB must distribute its educational materials in designated citywide languages to each city agency participating in voter registration efforts. The CFB must consult with agencies on how materials can be targeted to the populations that agencies serve. The materials include: (1) fact sheets on ranked choice voting, (2) promotional signs, (3) accessible language, (4) an explanatory video, and (5) explanatory graphics suitable for LinkNYC as well as websites and social media, which must direct the public to CFB’s website for more information. Each agency receiving materials is to distribute them, and report the number of materials distributed to the mayor’s office of operations, which must then include this information in its biannual agency-based voter registration report. The CFB is also required to establish training programs to help agencies learn how to incorporate RCV awareness into interactions with the public.

In 2021 and 2023, from January 1st until the June primaries, each participating agency and community board must identify locations where the CFB’s RCV educational materials can be placed, and display digital educational materials on agency websites with links to the CFB. These materials must be placed: (1) within physical locations, (2) on screens controlled by the agency, (3) in all print and electronic communications to the public, and (4) with educational materials distributed to agency and community board employees. The civic engagement commission must also include RCV education when training for poll site language interpreters.

Section 2 states that the law is effective for six years after enactment.

Nothing is more important for the success of ranked choice voting than a robust education campaign informing voters of how to use the new system. Adopting RCV was a major step forward for democracy in New York City, but too often localities across the country have failed to educate citizens on how instant runoffs work, then seen the system overturned. In 2021, NYC will become the largest city in the nation to use ranked choice voting, and people across the United States will be reading about our first instant-runoff election. It is imperative that the new system is popular with voters.

Int. 1994 helps ensure voters are informed by requiring just the type of campaign that is necessary for Ranked Choice Voting’s success. For Ranked Choice Voting to work, information about the new system must be ubiquitous, and by requiring NYC agencies to keep RCV educational posters and ads front and center, the bill will help keep voters aware of the changes. The Campaign Finance Board is already moving forward with many of the initiatives described in the legislation, but the bill’s passage will codify the process for the 2023 election.

Reinvent Albany recommends that the City Council update the bill so that education begins on January 1st, instead of November 15th. Certain provisions must be brought up to date, and beginning education this year would risk confusing New Yorkers voting in the District 12 special election on December 22nd.

Reinvent Albany supports Int. No. 1994 of 2020 and urges the City Council to pass it in time for the new year.

Click here to view the memo as a PDF.